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Female grizzly poached in North Idaho

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 2, 2018

A female grizzly bear was shot multiple time in North Idaho, according to Idaho officials.

The bear was shot and killed Labor Day weekend at Spruce Lake in northern Boundary County, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator Wayne Kasworm.

Officials have known about the dead bear since that weekend, but waited to publicize the killing in hopes of catching the poachers unaware, Kasworm said.

The bear was spotted with two cubs earlier in the years, said IDFG conservation officer Brian Johnson. He said there was reason to believe the cubs were not killed at the scene.

He said the bear had been shot multiple times.

Sometimes grizzlies are killed after being mistaken for black bears. However, “I do not believe this was a mistaken identity,” Johnson said.

The bear was killed on Sept. 4 and found on Sept. 8.

It’s estimated there are about 60 bears in the Cabinet and Yaak grizzly recovery area and about 30 bears in the United States’ portion of the Selkirk Range.

“The loss of an adult female is important to a population of this size,” Kasworm said.

But he noted that there haven’t been many dead females in recent years.

“I think this is the first dead adult female that we are aware of for a number of years,” he said. “Possibly the last five years.”

Kasworm said the question remains whether the “population can handle those kind of losses or not.”

He will have a clearer idea of the impact of the death at the end of year, he said.

Grizzly bears are protected by Idaho state law and federal law.

Despite their fearsome stature, the biggest threat to grizzly bears remains humans.

A Canadian review of grizzly mortality research published this summer found that humans cause 77 to 90 percent of all grizzly bear deaths in North America, and the majority of those deaths occur near a road.

Often, human-caused grizzly deaths go unreported.

According to Kasworm, 17 radio-collared bears died from human causes between 1982 and 2017 in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area.

Of those 17, 10 of the deaths were reported by the public and seven were not.

“These are the ones we know about,” Kasworm said. “Certainly there are other mortalities that occur out there that are unknown to us. … Basically for every one we know about, there is another one out there that is dead.”

According to another Canadian study, published in October, about 88 percent of human-caused grizzly deaths go unreported.

A male grizzly was poached in Montana earlier this year near Libby, Kasworm said. That investigation is ongoing.

Both grizzlies were killed during the black bear hunting season. Black bear season opened in Idaho on Aug. 30. Hunters occasionally mistake a grizzly for a black bear or feel threatened by the animal.

“There is a fair proportion of mortality that occurs during the black bear season,” Kasworm said. “Some of it is reported and some of it is not reported.”

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